|Names||Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF)|
|Mission type||X-ray astronomy|
|Operator||NASA / SAO /CXC|
|Mission duration||Planned: 5 years |
Elapsed: 22 years, 4 months, 11 days
|Launch mass||5,860 kg (12,930 lb)|
|Dry mass||4,790 kg (10,560 lb)|
|Dimensions||Deployed: 13.8 × 19.5 m (45.3 × 64.0 ft) |
Stowed: 11.8 × 4.3 m (38.7 × 14.0 ft)
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||July 23, 1999, 04:30:59.984 UTC|
|Rocket||Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-93)|
|Launch site||Kennedy LC-39B|
|Semi-major axis||80,795.9 km (50,204.2 mi)|
|Perigee altitude||14,307.9 km (8,890.5 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||134,527.6 km (83,591.6 mi)|
|Argument of perigee||267.2574°|
|Mean motion||0.3780 rev/day|
|Epoch||September 4, 2015, 04:37:54 UTC|
|Type||Wolter type 1|
|Diameter||1.2 m (3.9 ft)|
|Focal length||10.0 m (32.8 ft)|
|Collecting area||0.04 m2 (0.43 sq ft)|
|Wavelengths||X-ray: 0.12–12 nm (0.1–10 keV)|
The Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), is a Flagship-class space telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. Chandra is sensitive to X-ray sources 100 times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors. Since the Earth's atmosphere absorbs the vast majority of X-rays, they are not detectable from Earth-based telescopes; therefore space-based telescopes are required to make these observations. Chandra is an Earth satellite in a 64-hour orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2021 [update] .
Chandra is one of the Great Observatories, along with the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (1991–2000), and the Spitzer Space Telescope (2003–2020). The telescope is named after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.Its mission is similar to that of ESA's XMM-Newton spacecraft, also launched in 1999 but the two telescopes have different design foci; Chandra has much higher angular resolution.
In 1976 the Chandra X-ray Observatory (called AXAF at the time) was proposed to NASA by Riccardo Giacconi and Harvey Tananbaum. Preliminary work began the following year at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). In the meantime, in 1978, NASA launched the first imaging X-ray telescope, Einstein (HEAO-2), into orbit. Work continued on the AXAF project throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, to reduce costs, the spacecraft was redesigned. Four of the twelve planned mirrors were eliminated, as were two of the six scientific instruments. AXAF's planned orbit was changed to an elliptical one, reaching one third of the way to the Moon's at its farthest point. This eliminated the possibility of improvement or repair by the space shuttle but put the observatory above the Earth's radiation belts for most of its orbit. AXAF was assembled and tested by TRW (now Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) in Redondo Beach, California.
AXAF was renamed Chandra as part of a contest held by NASA in 1998, which drew more than 6,000 submissions worldwide.The contest winners, Jatila van der Veen and Tyrel Johnson (then a high school teacher and high school student, respectively), suggested the name in honor of Nobel Prize–winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. He is known for his work in determining the maximum mass of white dwarf stars, leading to greater understanding of high energy astronomical phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes. Fittingly, the name Chandra means "moon" in Sanskrit.
Originally scheduled to be launched in December 1998, UTC by Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-93. Chandra was deployed from Columbia at 11:47 UTC. The Inertial Upper Stage's first stage motor ignited at 12:48 UTC, and after burning for 125 seconds and separating, the second stage ignited at 12:51 UTC and burned for 117 seconds. At 22,753 kilograms (50,162 lb), it was the heaviest payload ever launched by the shuttle, a consequence of the two-stage Inertial Upper Stage booster rocket system needed to transport the spacecraft to its high orbit.the spacecraft was delayed several months, eventually being launched on July 23, 1999, at 04:31
Chandra has been returning data since the month after it launched. It is operated by the SAO at the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with assistance from MIT and Northrop Grumman Space Technology. The ACIS CCDs suffered particle damage during early radiation belt passages. To prevent further damage, the instrument is now removed from the telescope's focal plane during passages.
Although Chandra was initially given an expected lifetime of 5 years, on September 4, 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years "based on the observatory's outstanding results."Physically Chandra could last much longer. A 2004 study performed at the Chandra X-ray Center indicated that the observatory could last at least 15 years.
In July 2008, the International X-ray Observatory, a joint project between ESA, NASA and JAXA, was proposed as the next major X-ray observatory but was later cancelled.ESA later resurrected a downsized version of the project as the Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (ATHENA), with a proposed launch in 2028.
On October 10, 2018, Chandra entered safe mode operations, due to a gyroscope glitch. NASA reported that all science instruments were safe.Within days, the 3-second error in data from one gyro was understood, and plans were made to return Chandra to full service. The gyroscope that experienced the glitch was placed in reserve and is otherwise healthy.
In 2020, Chandra reportedly may have made an observation of an exoplanet in the Whirlpool Galaxy, which would be the first planet discovered beyond the Milky Way.
The data gathered by Chandra has greatly advanced the field of X-ray astronomy. Here are some examples of discoveries supported by observations from Chandra:
Unlike optical telescopes which possess simple aluminized parabolic surfaces (mirrors), X-ray telescopes generally use a Wolter telescope consisting of nested cylindrical paraboloid and hyperboloid surfaces coated with iridium or gold. X-ray photons would be absorbed by normal mirror surfaces, so mirrors with a low grazing angle are necessary to reflect them. Chandra uses four pairs of nested mirrors, together with their support structure, called the High Resolution Mirror Assembly (HRMA); the mirror substrate is 2 cm-thick glass, with the reflecting surface a 33 nm iridium coating, and the diameters are 65 cm, 87 cm, 99 cm and 123 cm. The thick substrate and particularly careful polishing allowed a very precise optical surface, which is responsible for Chandra's unmatched resolution: between 80% and 95% of the incoming X-ray energy is focused into a one-arcsecond circle. However, the thickness of the substrate limits the proportion of the aperture which is filled, leading to the low collecting area compared to XMM-Newton.
Chandra's highly elliptical orbit allows it to observe continuously for up to 55 hours of its 65-hour orbital period. At its furthest orbital point from Earth, Chandra is one of the most distant Earth-orbiting satellites. This orbit takes it beyond the geostationary satellites and beyond the outer Van Allen belt.
With an angular resolution of 0.5 arcsecond (2.4 µrad), Chandra possesses a resolution over 1000 times better than that of the first orbiting X-ray telescope.
CXO uses mechanical gyroscopes,which are sensors that help determine what direction the telescope is pointed. Other navigation and orientation systems on board CXO include an aspect camera, Earth and Sun sensors, and reaction wheels. It also has two sets of thrusters, one for movement and another for offloading momentum.
The Science Instrument Module (SIM) holds the two focal plane instruments, the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) and the High Resolution Camera (HRC), moving whichever is called for into position during an observation.
ACIS consists of 10 CCD chips and provides images as well as spectral information of the object observed. It operates in the photon energy range of 0.2–10 keV. HRC has two micro-channel plate components and images over the range of 0.1–10 keV. It also has a time resolution of 16 microseconds. Both of these instruments can be used on their own or in conjunction with one of the observatory's two transmission gratings.
The transmission gratings, which swing into the optical path behind the mirrors, provide Chandra with high resolution spectroscopy. The High Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer (HETGS) works over 0.4–10 keV and has a spectral resolution of 60–1000. The Low Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer (LETGS) has a range of 0.09–3 keV and a resolution of 40–2000.
A supermassive black hole is the largest type of black hole, with mass on the order of millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun (M☉). Black holes are a class of astronomical objects that have undergone gravitational collapse, leaving behind spheroidal regions of space from which nothing can escape, not even light. Observational evidence indicates that almost every large galaxy has a supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center. The Milky Way has a supermassive black hole in its Galactic Center, which corresponds to the location of Sagittarius A*. Accretion of interstellar gas onto supermassive black holes is the process responsible for powering active galactic nuclei and quasars.
XMM-Newton, also known as the High Throughput X-ray Spectroscopy Mission and the X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission, is an X-ray space observatory launched by the European Space Agency in December 1999 on an Ariane 5 rocket. It is the second cornerstone mission of ESA's Horizon 2000 programme. Named after physicist and astronomer Sir Isaac Newton, the spacecraft is tasked with investigating interstellar X-ray sources, performing narrow- and broad-range spectroscopy, and performing the first simultaneous imaging of objects in both X-ray and optical wavelengths.
Centaurus A is a galaxy in the constellation of Centaurus. It was discovered in 1826 by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop from his home in Parramatta, in New South Wales, Australia. There is considerable debate in the literature regarding the galaxy's fundamental properties such as its Hubble type and distance. NGC 5128 is one of the closest radio galaxies to Earth, so its active galactic nucleus has been extensively studied by professional astronomers. The galaxy is also the fifth-brightest in the sky, making it an ideal amateur astronomy target. It is only visible from the southern hemisphere and low northern latitudes.
NASA's series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes launched between 1990 and 2003. They were built with different technology to examine specific wavelength/energy regions of the electromagnetic spectrum: gamma rays, X-rays, visible and ultraviolet light, and infrared light.
Sagittarius A* is a bright and very compact astronomical radio source at the Galactic Center of the Milky Way. It is located near the border of the constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius, about 5.6° south of the ecliptic, visually close to the Butterfly Cluster (M6) and Shaula. Sagittarius A* is the location of a supermassive black hole, similar to massive objects at the centers of most, if not all, spiral and elliptical galaxies.
NGC 3115 is a field lenticular (S0) galaxy in the constellation Sextans. The galaxy was discovered by William Herschel on February 22, 1787. At about 32 million light-years away from Earth, it is several times bigger than the Milky Way. It is a lenticular (S0) galaxy because it contains a disk and a central bulge of stars, but without a detectable spiral pattern. NGC 3115 is seen almost exactly edge-on, but was nevertheless mis-classified as elliptical. There is some speculation that NGC 3115, in its youth, was a quasar.
The Constellation-X Observatory was a mission concept for an X-ray space observatory to be operated by NASA; in 2008 it was merged with ESA and JAXA efforts in the same direction to produce the International X-ray Observatory project, announced on 24 July 2008.
Einstein Observatory (HEAO-2) was the first fully imaging X-ray telescope put into space and the second of NASA's three High Energy Astrophysical Observatories. Named HEAO B before launch, the observatory's name was changed to honor Albert Einstein upon its successfully attaining orbit.
Amy J. Barger is an American astronomer and Henrietta Leavitt Professor of Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is considered a pioneer in combining data from multiple telescopes to monitor multiple wavelengths and in discovering distant galaxies and supermassive black holes, which are outside of the visible spectrum. Barger is an active member of the International Astronomical Union.
APM 08279+5255 is a very distant, broad absorption line quasar located in the constellation Lynx. It is magnified and split into multiple images by the gravitational lensing effect of a foreground galaxy through which its light passes. It appears to be a giant elliptical galaxy with a supermassive black hole and associated accretion disk. It possesses large regions of hot dust and molecular gas, as well as regions with starburst activity.
Astrosat is India's first dedicated multi-wavelength space telescope. It was launched on a PSLV-XL on 28 September 2015. With the success of this satellite, ISRO has proposed launching AstroSat-2 as a successor for Astrosat.
Leon P. Van Speybroeck was an American astronomer who served as Telescope Scientist for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory which was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999. Speybroek designed the mirrors that made possible its spectacular X-ray images of nearby and remote celestial objects, including comets, exploding stars, jets of gas spewing from nearby black holes, and powerful quasars more than 10 billion light years from Earth. The data from Chandra prompted new discoveries about the evolution of stars and galaxies, the nature of the black holes, dark matter, and the shape and dimensions of the universe.
The 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) took place in Washington, D.C., Jan. 3 to Jan. 7, 2010. It is one of the largest astronomy meetings ever to take place as 3,500 astronomers and researchers were expected to attend and give more than 2,200 scientific presentations. The meeting was actually billed as the "largest Astronomy meeting in the universe". An array of discoveries were announced, along with new views of the universe that we inhabit; such as quiet planets like Earth - where life could develop are probably plentiful, even though an abundance of cosmic hurdles exist - such as experienced by our own planet in the past.
The International X-ray Observatory (IXO) is a cancelled X-ray telescope that was to be launched in 2021 as a joint effort by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In May 2008, ESA and NASA established a coordination group involving all three agencies, with the intent of exploring a joint mission merging the ongoing XEUS and Constellation-X Observatory (Con-X) projects. This proposed the start of a joint study for IXO. NASA was forced to cancel the observatory due to budget constrains in fiscal year 2012. ESA however decided to reboot the mission on its own developing Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics as a part of Cosmic Vision program.
The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, formerly the X-ray Astronomy Recovery Mission (XARM), is an X-ray astronomy satellite of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to provide breakthroughs in the study of structure formation of the universe, outflows from galaxy nuclei, and dark matter. As the only international X-ray observatory project of its period, XRISM will function as a next generation space telescope in the X-ray astronomy field, similar to how the James Webb Space Telescope, Fermi Space Telescope, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Observatory are placed in their respective fields. The mission is a stopgap for avoiding a potential observation period gap between X-ray telescopes of the present and those of the future. Without XRISM, a blank period in X-ray astronomy may arise in the early 2020s due to the loss of Hitomi. During its formulation, XRISM/XARM was also known as the "ASTRO-H Successor" or "ASTRO-H2".
The Lynx X-ray Observatory (Lynx) is a NASA-funded Large Mission Concept Study commissioned as part of the National Academy of Sciences 2020 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. The concept study phase is complete as of August 2019, and the Lynx final report has been submitted to the Decadal Survey for prioritization. If launched, Lynx would be the most powerful X-ray astronomy observatory constructed to date, enabling order-of-magnitude advances in capability over the current Chandra X-ray Observatory and XMM-Newton space telescopes.
Arcus is a proposed X-ray space observatory proposed to NASA's Explorer program, Medium Explorer (MIDEX) class.
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